The new mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center opens Tuesday.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
More Than 1,000 Parents Sign Petition to Resume In-Person Learning in Joliet Schools
More than 1,000 parents in suburban Joliet have signed a petition urging school administrators to bring children back into classrooms despite an announcement earlier this year that all learning would remain remote until the end of the school year.
The push comes as the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education released updated joint guidance for schools to safely reopen.
Jennifer Wysocki started an online petition calling on schools in Joliet District 86 to reopen for in-person learning as soon as possible.
“I think the biggest thing is the parents of Joliet want a choice,” said Wysocki. “They want to be able to say, yeah, I want my kids in school or no I don’t want my kids in school.”
Wysocki, a teacher in another district, has two children in elementary school and said they have been struggling with remote learning this past year.
“My daughter, she used to say everyday how much she loves school and at the end of the year she would start crying because summer was starting,” she said. “But now she literally hates school—lots of everyday saying 'I hate school mommy, I hate school.'”
More than 1,100 parents have signed the petition as of Tuesday evening. Parents believe with a drop in COVID cases, surrounding districts reopening, and teachers being vaccinated—there’s no reason why students can’t safely return to the classroom.
Read more here.
These Are the 22 Mass COVID Vaccination Sites in Illinois
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said on multiple occasions that shipments of COVID-19 vaccines are "set to soar" in the coming days, but for those who qualify, where can you get an appointment?
There are currently 21 state-supported mass vaccination sites across Illinois, plus a site at the United Center run in partnership with the federal government under a new pilot program.
An additional site was announced on Tuesday, as McLean County will open a vaccination site at the Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, according to state health officials.
The new site will vaccine 4,600 people per day when it becomes fully operational, according to officials. Only McLean County residents will be eligible to receive vaccines at the site.
Two other sites also opened up shop this week:
On March 9, the Camden Centre, located at 2701 1st Street East in Milan, opened as a new vaccination site. The site is limited to Rock Island County residents only, and more information can be found on the health department's website.
On March 10, Shabbona Middle School, located at 725 School Street in Morris, will open as a new site. The site is limited to Grundy County residents only, and more information can be found on the county health department's website.
For a look at all locations, click here.
Smoking Not Included Under Eligible Conditions for United Center Vaccinations, Arwady Says
Chicago residents eligible under Phase 1B Plus of Illinois' vaccine rollout were able to sign up for appointments at the United Center mass vaccination site, but the city's top doctor said there was one approved medical condition under the state's plan that isn't included at the city site.
But Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said it was not included at the United Center.
"In this interim period where we just have very limited vaccine, we're using the state's 1B Plus guidance, but we did not include smokers in that," Arwady said during a Facebook Live Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that "being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19."
Eligibility for the new vaccination site at the United Center narrowed less than an hour before the registration opened further Sunday afternoon.
New Guidance Announced for In-Person Learning in Illinois Schools Amid Pandemic
As more Illinois schools return to in-person and hybrid instruction, the State Board of Education has made some adjustments to its public health guidance amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The changes, made in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Public Health, will involve a series of “layered mitigation strategies,” along with several changes to the way that schools monitor the health and safety of students, according to a press release.
Some of those changes include changes to the appropriate distancing between teachers and students, reducing that number to 3-to-6 feet for vaccinated educators, and guidance urging schools to have parents and students conduct health screenings at home rather than on school grounds.
The changes also come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released and updated its guidance on the reopening of schools in the United States.
According to the ISBE’s letter, all schools that reopen their doors to in-person instruction will be required to adhere to five essential mitigation strategies, including:
1. Requiring universal and correct use of PPE, including face masks
2. Requiring social distancing be observed as much as possible
3. Requiring contact tracing, in combination with isolation of those suspected or confirmed to have COVID 19
4. Requiring an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection
5. Requiring promotion and adherence to handwashing and respiratory etiquette.
Several other changes were also added to the state’s guidance. Capacity limits for in-person learning, along with those instituted for lunch periods at schools, will now be determined by a space’s ability to accommodate social distancing, rather than setting a specific percentage or number of students that can occupy a space.
Read more here.
Walgreens Apologizes for 'Delays or Failures' With COVID Vaccine Scheduler, Website
"We apologize that some customers may experience delays or failures when using our website and COVID-19 vaccine scheduler. Our teams are resolving the issues and working to prevent a reocurrence," the Illinois-based company tweeted.
Walgreens urged customers who do experience difficulties scheduling COVID vaccine appointments to instead call (800) WALGREENS.
Last week, both Walgreens and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledged to NBC 5 that the pharmacy chain was experiencing problems with its COVID-19 vaccine sign-up process, as the company's website continues to show no availability or will not allow patients to book available first-dose appointments, frustrating eligible Illinois residents seeking to get their shots.
More Appointments to Be Released for United Center 'Later This Week,' Mayor Says
Additional appointments are expected to become available for the United Center mass vaccination site "later this week," Chicago's mayor said, noting that appointments won't just be for Chicago residents.
"We are assessing what the equity numbers look like before we open it up and we'll give further details later this week about how it is that people can sign up ," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said as the facility began its first vaccinations Tuesday. "And these are dispersed continuing with city, county and state, but we are adjusting the numbers based upon what we see in terms of the appointments - what zip codes folks are coming from, and other demographic information."
So far, only 50,000 appointments have opened to the public over the past few days, officials revealed - a major walk-back of their initial announcement that roughly 110,000 appointments would be made available.
A last-minute change Sunday also meant only Chicago residents eligible under Phase 1B Plus guidelines could sign up as appointments expanded over the weekend, marking yet another shift from initial plans.
But Lightfoot said other residents will be eligible for upcoming appointments.
Read more here.
50K United Center Vaccine Appointments Opened to Public, Officials Say, Walking Back 110K Figure
Only 50,000 appointments at the United Center's new mass COVID-19 vaccination site opened to the public over the past few days, officials revealed Tuesday, in a major walk-back of their initial announcement that roughly 110,000 appointments were made available.
During a news conference at the United Center site to mark its first day in operation, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady repeated what officials had previously said, that about 40,000 Illinois residents over the age of 65 signed up for appointments during a special registration period exclusively for seniors from Thursday to Sunday.
Arwady said about 10,000 additional appointments were subsequently made available when registration expanded Sunday, for a total of roughly 50,000 appointments - less than half what officials had repeatedly said would be offered.
Officials initially said in announcing the sign-up process earlier this month that a total of 110,000 appointments would be opened to the public over the course of three days, beginning with the special registration period for seniors and then expanding to all Illinois residents eligible under Phase 1B Plus on Sunday.
Read more here.
Texas, Nebraska Move to Increased Risk Category Under Chicago Travel Order
Chicago updated its emergency travel order guidance on Tuesday, moving both Texas and Nebraska into a higher risk category for travelers.
Under the new guidance, which takes effect Friday, the two states are now listed under the "orange tier," which requires a 10-day quarantine or pre-arrival negative test no more than 72 hours before coming to Chicago, officials said.
Last month, Chicago's travel order was updated to exempt those who are fully vaccinated from the 10-day quarantine or negative COVID-19 test requirement.
Several states were also moved from the "orange tier" to the lesser "yellow tier" under the city's travel order, meaning their case rate has dropped below the threshold.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 1,510 New Cases, 16 Deaths, Over 75K Vaccinations Reported
Health officials in Illinois confirmed just over 1,500 new cases of coronavirus and 16 additional deaths on Tuesday, with over 75,000 doses of the COVID vaccine administered to state residents in the last 24 hours.
According to the latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health, a total of 1,510 new confirmed and probable COVID cases were reported over the last day, bringing the state’s total to 1,201,027 cases since the pandemic began last year.
The 16 new deaths brought the state to 20,781 fatalities related to the virus, according to health officials.
Read more here.
When Can You See People After Getting Vaccinated? Latest on the CDC's New COVID Guidelines
After receiving the coronavirus vaccine, when is it safe to expand your social circles or see loved ones?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines for socializing post-vaccination this week.
The recommendations from federal health officials say fully-vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing. They also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.
Complete vaccination is said to be two weeks after a person receives their second dose of the vaccine.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she was "excited" by the CDC's latest guidelines.
"This is what we were really hoping for we'd been pushing, you know, lots of interest and making sure that the CDC would come out with this," Arwady said Tuesday.
Chicago's top doctor said the guidance allows health officials to be more specific with what vaccinated residents can and cannot do going forward. But there are still some precautions that remain unchanged, she said.
Read more here.
United Center COVID Vaccine Site Opens Tuesday
The new mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center opens Tuesday, with plans to inoculate thousands of people per day at capacity.
A coalition of federal, state and local officials announced late last month that the United Center would be turned into a mass vaccination site under a new federal pilot program.
The United Center site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks and will be able to administer 6,000 shots per day at full capacity, officials said, noting that vaccinations would be by appointment only and that demand was "anticipated to be high." Those doses will be provided directly from the federal government and not diverted from the supply sent to Chicago or Illinois.
Zocdoc Glitches Plague Registration for United Center COVID Vaccine Appointments
Glitches plagued medical appointment booking website Zocdoc on Sunday as registration for COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the United Center opened to more Chicago residents.
Registration, previously open just to Illinois residents over the age of 65, opened to all Chicago residents eligible under Phase 1B Plus at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
When it opened, the website showed appointments that were available but in some cases did not allow users to book those appointments. Some also reported that they were able to book appointments that were later canceled.
"On Sunday afternoon, some users experienced difficulty booking a vaccination at the United Center," a spokesman for the company said in a statement." Zocdoc identified and resolved the root issue in less than one hour, and Chicago residents were successfully able to book vaccinations, reaching peak booking rates of more than 750 bookings per minute. Due to high demand, our current allotment of United Center vaccine availability was quickly fully booked."
"We apologize to anyone who was unable to secure an appointment at the United Center, and we will continue to add new appointments to our platform from Chicago vaccine providers as they become available. We look forward to helping more eligible individuals find and book a COVID-19 vaccination," Zocdoc said.
When asked about the users who received unsolicited cancellation emails after booking their appointments, Zocdoc said that issue was related to multiple people attempting to book the same slot.
"At peak booking times, many users were concurrently selecting the same appointment slots. If multiple users were attempting to book the same appointment slot at the same time, and that time slot ran out of availability, some users may have received a cancellation notification if their pending booking was unable to be confirmed," Zocdoc said. "This was an edge case which occurred for fewer than 100 users."
Note: For COVID-19, the herd-immunity threshold is estimated to be between 60 and 90 percent. Our analysis considers herd immunity reached at 75% of the population fully vaccinated based on estimates by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
United Center COVID Vaccine Eligibility Changes, Causing Confusion and Frustration
Eligibility for the new United Center mass COVID-19 vaccination site narrowed less than an hour before registration opened further on Sunday, causing confusion and frustration for many seeking to book appointments.
After an exclusive registration period for Illinois residents over the age of 65 that began on Thursday, appointments for the United Center were initially slated to expand at 4 p.m. Sunday to all Illinois residents qualified to get vaccinated under Phase 1B Plus.
But just after 3 p.m. Sunday, officials announced that eligibility would change to include only Chicago residents in Phase 1B Plus, which is anyone over 65, some frontline workers, school staff and more, or anyone 18 and up who has certain health conditions or comorbidities.
For a full look at who's eligible under the expanded Phase 1B Plus, click here.
The last-minute change sparked confusion and frustration for some who had been waiting to book appointments at the new site. The ZocDoc website also appeared to have a glitch on Sunday, showing appointments that were available but not allowing users to book those appointments. Some also reported that they were able to book appointments that were later canceled without explanation.
The change in eligibility was made based on additional Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance, Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said in a statement, to "ensure equity in vaccine distribution and that the people and communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have access to the vaccine."
During the exclusive registration for seniors, more than 40,000 people over the age of 65 booked appointments at the United Center, all of which will be honored, officials said. But less than 40% of those appointments were made by Chicago residents.
The United Center was selected for the new vaccination site, announced late last month through a partnership with state, city, county and federal officials under a nationwide pilot program, was selected based in part based on its central location and accessibility for a "significantly medically underserved and marginalized population" to bring vaccines to "particularly vulnerable communities."
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